Heartworm in cats: what it is, causes, symptoms and treatment

Heartworm in cats is an underestimated disease. Knowing what it is, its causes and symptoms, and how to intervene is important for the cat.

Filaria, also known as Filarosis, is a disease that affects cats as well as dogs. 

And precisely because of this spread, it is important to know what it is, to recognize its symptoms and to act quickly.

How is filaria transmitted in cats: cause and severity

Filaria is spread in cats through the bite of mosquitoes, especially tiger ones.

Through the bite, mosquitoes inject the larval form of a parasite, called Dirofilaria, into the cat’s blood. Which, once it enters the body of our cat, turns into a worm capable of reaching a length of 15 cm.

Philarosis can be divided into two forms: cutaneous and cardiopulmonary, depending on the type of parasite carried in the cat’s body by mosquitoes.

  • The first, sees as protagonist the parasite Dirofilaria Repens, capable of settling in the subcutis but causing less damage;
  • the second, however, with the parasite Dirofilaria immitis affects the circulatory system, becoming lethal for the cat. In fact, this parasite attacks the circulatory system of the feline rapidly, affecting the heart and lungs. Causing both heart and respiratory problems to our cat.

These worms continue to grow out of all proportion, spreading rapidly in the cat. And it is precisely this ‘speed’ that should cause us to worry. In fact, if not caught in time, the Filaria leads the cat to death.

This subtle disease manifests itself in the cat even months after the infection, and it is for this reason essential to always and periodically check our cat by a veterinarian.

Heartworm severity in cats

Heartworm disease affects cats fewer than dogs. This is mainly due to three factors:

  • the first consists of the number of parasites that go to settle in the cat’s body, a lower number than the dog (an estimated minus 20%);
  • the second in time : in fact, in the cat these parasites become adults with the passage of more months (approximately 9 months compared to the dog which has a maximum time of 6 months), and moreover only a few of these parasites grow up to become infectious adults;
  • the third in their lifespan in the cat’s body, shorter than that in the dog.

It must be said, however, and it is very important to underline it, that if even one of these infecting adult parasites affects the cat’s heart, it will certainly cause the death of the animal.

How to tell if your cat has heartworm: symptoms

Filaria is not only devious for how it is transmitted to the cat, but it is also devious for the type of its first symptoms.

Initially it is really difficult to suspect that our cat has Filaria. In fact, the first symptoms are indefinable and we hardly associate them with this disease.

Cough, asthma attacks with difficulty in breathing, lack of appetite, continuous sleepiness, tiredness and weakness. These are the first symptoms that a cat suffering from Filaria can have, and of course they can be confused by us with the symptoms of other diseases, such as the common flu.

But we must pay close attention to the appearance of further, far more serious symptoms. Such as the increase in heartbeat and vomiting, which can be frequent if not chronic.

These are symptoms that we must not neglect, as associated with Filariasis they can lead to respiratory and / or cardiac crisis , collapse, inevitably leading the cat to death.

How to intervene to fight the Filaria

Filariasis, it should be repeated, is a serious and degenerative disease that can occur in cats. Known the symptoms what can we do?

As mentioned before, there are cases in which in our cat the parasitic load of the Filaria can be not only low but also have a short life. And it is in these circumstances that we can see a gradual and spontaneous recovery of the cat.

But since we cannot be sure of the development of these parasites it is always good to rely on the veterinarian for preventive treatments. We remember, in fact, that in the most serious cases, if not diagnosed immediately it can become lethal for the cat.

It is therefore good, when the symptoms of our sick cat make us suspicious, immediately take him to the vet, who will subject him to a series of specific tests .

Once the diagnosis has been made and ascertained that it is precisely Filaria, the doctor will indicate the specific therapy to follow, thanks to which, with the addition of continuous prophylaxis, this very ugly disease can be kept under control and even defeated.

In the event that there is a suspicion of a health problem in our pet, it is always essential to ask our trusted veterinarian for guidance as soon as possible.

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